He is one of the best four batsmen I have seen and he is the best player of his generation. What is it that makes him so good?He has an exceptional physical talent. He has outstanding balance. He is very competitive. He is very strong. He has exceptional speed. He has great presence and an excellent temperament. He has a huge desire to be the best and he has an extraordinary mental ability.Batting at the highest levels of the game is as much about mental skills as it is about physical talents. The better players may have a greater range of strokes than the rest but you can bet they also have a greater mentalcapacity.Sir Donald Bradman was the best batsman of all time because he was the most determined and mentally strong batsman there has ever been. I am sure I have seen batsmen who have had as much physical talent as Bradman but they have not had the same ruthless drive to make big scores. Bradman had the ability to treat batting in matches the same way as he batted in the middle. He seldom felt the same pressures of batting that mere mortals feel. This allowed him to concentrate for long periods.What exactly is concentration? Concentration is the ability to focus on the important things at the right moment while blocking out the rest. Some things are more relevant than others at different times.At the point of delivery the only thing that a batsman should see in his field of vision is the ball leaving the bowler's hand. Just prior to the point of delivery the batsman should see the full view of the bowler as he folds up into the delivery position.The ability to be able to track between the two at the appropriate times separates the men from the boys. Testing that was done with Bradman concluded that his eyesight and reflexes were within the 'normal' range.What he did better than the rest was to pick up the cues from the bowlers' action just prior to, and at the point of, delivery better than all the rest. I have no doubt Bradman, a well organised man, had a process of concentration for each and every delivery. His instincts were well trained from hours and hours of hitting golf balls with a cricket stump as a young man. His brain will have had a greater capacity for storing information than the most complex computers that man can build. The most important part of a batsman's development happens in the early stages of learning the game.The instinctive skills that are learnt at this stage are relied upon when under pressure in a match situation. These instinctive skills are learnt rather than taught. A good coach will create the environment in which the young player will train these instincts.The early environment in which Sachin learnt his skills must have been excellent. His instincts are outstanding. I have been lucky enough to see all of the best batsmen of the past 50 years.Some of those whom I rate in the very top bracket of the elite group of players in that time would be Peter May, Ken Barrington, Neil Harvey, Garfield Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Graeme Pollock, Sunil Gavaskar, Clive Lloyd, Barry Richards, Doug Walters, Viv Richards, Javed Miandad, Gordon Greenidge Ian Chappell, Allan Border, the Waughs, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Brian Lara and Tendulkar.Each one of these players had slightly different methods and styles but each had great instincts. If I had to pick the best of all of these I would chooseSobers, closely followed by Pollock, Viv Richards and Tendulkar in no particular order. They all possessed 'genius' quality and could win matches on their own. Each hit the ball with incredible power. Sobers' record has stood the test of time for he made runs under all conditions against all types of bowling. Tendulkar's record is also exceptional and he has played well against quality pace and spin. His clashes with Shane Warne in recent times, especially the past two Australian tours of India, have provided some excellent theatre. I have also seen him take on Saqlain Mushtaq and Muttiah Muralitharan in Sharjah and Sri Lanka respectively and he has taken them on and come out on top nearly every time. Tendulkar's record in the games India must win isexcellent and stamps him as a true champion.His footwork and brute force are awesome to see and his range of stroke play makes him the most awkward of customers against whom to bowl. I love to watch him bat because he has two or three options to the same delivery and he is just as likely to hit the best balls for four, or six. If there were a weakness in his armoury some would say it is against quality fast bowling on the bouncy wickets of Australia. If that is true it doesn't make him Robinson Crusoe! All good players have been troubled by quality fast bowling on bouncy wickets at one time or another.As the pre-eminent batsman of his time, Tendulkar is always targeted by the opposition and has been tested on innumerable occasions. He has come out on top more often than not and his successes have usually carried India's fortunes with them.Few of Tendulkar's predecessors have played as much One-day cricket as he has and few, Bradman apart, have had to endure the pressure of mass adulation at home as he has. The fact that he has endured the adulation, and the pressure of expectation of one billion fans, and has been able to maintain his equilibrium and his passion for the game is a great credit to him and his parents who obviously set an excellent foundation for him.He cannot last forever so I make every effort to see him bat whenever I can for he is a rare gem, the like of which does not come along very often. India's fortunes in the remainder of this World Cup campaign will no doubt parallel the vicissitudes of the 'little master's' fortunes. PTI
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